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“There is No Place Like Home” by Kim Hunter '86

...especially when you are a long way from home

This is the time of year where goodbye posts are pretty common on these blogs. While I am not leaving the Admissions Office I too have a goodbye post to share with you…

When I was an undergraduate at MIT I spent four years living in Baker House and I loved it there. When I returned to campus six years ago I took every opportunity to talk with current students about their lives here and I read all the admissions blogs too but I wasn’t sure if I knew the whole story. Understanding how life might be different for today’s students was critically important to me since I would be admitting our students.

I had at times been a bit jealous of my friends and my younger brother who lived in fraternities and independent living groups when I was in college but sororities such as the six whose members are nearly one-third of our undergraduate female population at MIT now were just getting started on our campus in those days. Now the option for women to belong and live for a time in a value-based organization where members share core principals of leadership, scholarship, and citizenship can add a different dimension to the college experience that I knew.

When I began looking for a place to live five years ago and an alumna friend suggested I consider being the Resident Advisor (RA) for 60 undergradates at her daughter’s sorority house for a year or two, I felt it was a great opportunity. It would solve my problem of needing a place to live that was close to campus but also allow me the chance to get a first hand view of what life was like for our students, especially our women, at MIT.

Has life been perfect in the Alpha Phi House? Of course not and to say otherwise would just be untrue. But it truly is an experience I am very glad I have been a part of throughout my time there.

I have not enjoyed responding when the door alarms goes off late at night or very early in the morning, but I appreciate the fact that having the alarm keeps everyone in the house safe. I complain, just like everyone else, when there is no bus during the day on Sunday and I need to go to campus and it is snowing, but the fact that I could take it every weekday during the school year to campus and every night year round, until very late, has been incredibly convenient. The house is not always as neat as it could be, but I know for certain it is not the messiest one either :-)

There have been lots of wonderful things that have come from my time in the house. I did my first 5K last year with two sisters and a member of one of our nearby fraternities. In the TV room downstairs the sisters (including me) have watched hours of television together bonding over dinner, frozen cookie dough, and nachos (Friends, Criminal Minds, Gossip Girls, Heart of Dixie, and Jeopardy to name just a few). We have laughed at the antics in “The House Bunny” movie, cried as a group when watching movies like “The Notebook,” agonized over sports teams losses (go Patriots, Red Sox, and Bruins), and cheered each other on through finals and job interviews. Over the last five years I have learned many things but some of the most valuable lessons have been those that I never expected.

There really is always someone there for you when you live in a sorority. I sometimes have felt that our house never sleeps as someone always seems to be awake, no matter how late or early the hour. What that also means is that when you need a shoulder to cry on, someone to go with you for frozen yogurt, or company to watch a movie that person can be found just by walking into the TV room or sending out an email.

Spending time off campus is as important as the time you spend on it. Having the chance to escape across the river and forget the intensity that can be MIT is key to finding balance here. By going shopping with a sister or going for a run along the Esplanade and leaving The Institute behind at the end of the day for a few moments you can refocus and accomplish what needs to get done more effectively.

Many hands make light work. In independent houses, everyone takes part in making things dirty but also in keeping things clean. Each member has responsibility for cleaning up after herself and learns how it affects those around her when she doesn’t. Members learn life skills that will help them when they have their own apartments and homes down the road.

“Sisterhood” is forever and connections to your sisters don’t end when you graduate. One of the joys of having lived in the house is getting to know the young women that I now count as friends and sisters. The fact that so many of them continue their friendships long after graduation is wonderful to see and experience. They may live thousands of miles apart but they make opportunities to visit each other, vacation together, and stay in contact. We are also fortunate to have wonderful alumnae who help our house operate because they too valued the time they spent in this house when they were undergrads.

“Home” is where you go at the end of the day. Often when walking down the infinite corridor in the mid afternoon I have seen one of the girls in the hall. It always gives me a lift to hear her say, “Hi Kim, I’ll see you later at home!” When I overhear many students in that same hall they talk about meeting up back at the dorm or in the dining hall. The fact that the ladies use the word “home” in how they think of this house says a lot about the comfort they feel here.

When I move out of Alpha Phi next week I will know longer call this place “home” at the end of every day. But just like every sister who has come before me I know I will always have a place here. I will miss most hearing of the excitement and challenges each days brings to each of my sisters at Alpha Phi but will always treasure the times we spent together on Commonwealth Ave under the careful watch of the CITCO sign.